The song above is “Fairytale of New York,” originally written by The Pogues but ably covered by Dustin Kensrue on last year’s Christmas album The Good Night is Still Everywhere.
The differences between the two versions is quite palpable – The Pogues’ version was a duet between estranged (and angry) lovers. Kensrue’s adaptation is more of an introspective, retrospective look back at a man’s mistakes in the context of a broken relationship.
Though lacking the harshness of the original version, Kensrue’s song is nothing short of heartbreaking, and the additional lines at the end of the song (“I’m an old man now…won’t see another one”) bring to mind Johnny Cash’s cover of Reznor’s “Hurt.”
For many Christmas can be a time of loneliness and sadness. While urban legends exaggerate this (contrary to the popular myth, there are fewer suicides at Christmas than any other time of the year), there is nonetheless a sense of pain and regret that can come from remembering the relationships of years gone past.
In the beginning of Luke’s gospel we find the words of the angel, speaking to Zechariah about John’s role: “…he will go on before the Lord…to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
In the first century world, families were being fractured by rivaling theological currents, where fathers and sons could be part of very different Jewish sects. But sectarian Judaism would find healing in the good theology that John would bring, theology that would ultimately point to the promised Messiah.
If you are a regular reader (or have heard me speak in any significant capacity), you know that I have repeatedly emphasized the need for developing a holistic gospel, one that embraces the reconciliation between God and man, but also man and his neighbor (cf. Ephesians 2:17-24).
At Christmas we celebrate a time of togetherness made possible through the incarnation of God’s Son, a child who appeared in humble circumstances so that through Him the nations could find peace and healing.
And for us, this season of all seasons, we find renewed reason to love our brothers and sisters – both biological and spiritual – and rejoice in the annealing power the gospel brings.
This isn’t always easy. In fact, it rarely is, especially when dealing with family and friends unwilling to extend or accept the olive branch of reconciliation.
For many, Kensrue’s song rings true because it tells a story tinged with a form of regret we know all too well. But we may hold fast to the hope that in God’s coming Kingdom there will be no such sadness, and all the fig leaves that we fashioned to separate ourselves from one another will be eradicated so that we may find the kinds of redeemed relationships only the Savior can bring.